Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Memories of the Junior Deluxe Editions from Nelson Doubleday

These books are everywhere.

You probably know of them, too, if you frequent used-book stores or sales, or if you grew up in the mid 20th century.

I'm not really a collector. My eyes typically gloss over them when I'm scanning books on store shelves or at sales. But I picked these two up recently because they're in nice condition and they were sitting in a "Free Books" bin outside of a 2nd & Charles in the Harrisburg area. I won't say no to free vintage children's books!

When I comes to collecting, I tend to focus on fairy tales, folklore, old school books, vintage science-fiction and fantasy, and, most recently, Scholastic paperbacks from the 1960s and 1970s. (There will be some upcoming posts on that last topic.)

But I figured that there must be some people on the vast expanses of the Internet who collect and research these colorful Junior Deluxe Editions from Nelson Doubleday, the same way that I collect and research Ruth Manning-Sanders volumes.

And I was right.

So here are some excerpts and links from the blogosphere on this bibliophile topic:

  • Matt Hinrichs, who has been posting on Scrubbles.net since 2000 (!!!), wrote a February 2011 post about the Junior Deluxe Editions that most other bloggers tend to reference when discussing the series. So we'll start with this excerpt from his post: "For years I’ve seen these colorful ’50s hardbacks known as Junior Deluxe Editions in antique and thrift stores, but I’ve never given them much thought before coming across the beautiful Flickr group devoted to them. Though the books are not particularly rare or collectible, the covers have a charming, folk-meets-modern sensibility — and they look dynamite sitting on a shelf. From what I’ve gathered, the Junior Deluxe Editions were a mail-order based program from Doubleday in which customers signed on to receive new volumes on a monthly basis. ... There were about 90 titles in all, issued from the mid ’40s up to 1962 or thereabouts."
  • Excerpts from a 2011 post on My Two Cents, by Brad Woodard: "[W]hen we stumbled upon this small collection of Junior Deluxe Editions children’s books, we were beyond elated. They were sitting on top of an extremely old, and ornate buffet when the storekeeper approached us and began trying to sell us the piece of furniture. We just laughed and told him we were more interested in the old and worn children’s books. He looked kind of surprised and basically gave them to us for only $3 a piece! ... I am just happy because we now have started a collection of beautifully illustrated, classic story book for our future kids! And most likely I will read them all before the kids come. Hopefully you admire and enjoy these books as we do!"
  • Excerpts from a 2013 post on Just Nicky: "Junior Deluxe Editions were sold by mail order as, I suspect, were the other books that my parents collected for the family. A lot of the family library found its way into the house via Reader’s Digest in the days when bookshops were rare and the internet was not even a space-age fantasy. ... I love these books and they were magical to me as a child. For me, the best thing about them is that each one is different, the design echoing the subject matter of the contents. Each has its own colour scheme, which extends to the end papers. The pages are rough cut in solid paper which discolours beautifully with age. They are also beautifully illustrated. ... These days, thanks to ebay, I have 24 of them. I buy them cheaply, so they are not in great condition, and Emmylou has chewed a few, which are now in worse condition, but they hold pride of place on the top shelf of our hallway bookshelves."
  • Finally, Scott Santoro, commenting on a 2009 post by Rachael at Rad Library, added this insight: "These were sold through their book club in the 50s and 60s. Every month you'd have the option of skipping one so long, as I believe, [as] you bought a certain number per year. Each volume came with a bookmark advertising the next book in the series."

Bookmarks! Does anyone still have any of these advertising bookmarks?

There's also a sprawling Pinterest page for these volumes, if you want to gaze at them some more.

School days. School buildings.
Schoolchildren. Autumn.

Perhaps I'm laying the nostalgia1 on a little thick here, but I really like this old illustration of American children going to school on an autumn day.2 It's from Our Homes and Our School, which was part of the American Book Company's Social Studies Series and was published in 1961.

The book was illustrated by Herbert McClure.3

What kinds of schools did you attend? Did you attend an older school that was built decades before you were born? What are your favorite building-related school memories?

Of course, there are many different kinds of schools. McClure shows a few different types in another illustration from Our Homes and Our School.

Complete guide to Papergreat's School Days ephemera

1. On a related note, check out NPR Books' review (by Tomas Hachard) of the recently released Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom, by Lewis Buzbee.
2. Yes, I am aware that, in some technical senses, it is not yet autumn. But different cultures and segments of the population have different ideas about the specific dates of autumn. For me, it's either the start of the traditional public school year or Labor Day. And both of those have arrived. So it's autumn. So there. Put your pumpkins out. :)
3. This artist, who lived from 1921 to 1985, might or might not be the same Herbert McClure.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Deep thoughts: Is it ephemera if it's only on the Internet?

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed earlier today when I came across this tweet from @ConeyHistory.

First of all, this event sounds really cool. According to the current amusement park operators, the cyclops, which dates to the 1950s and is a part of Coney Island lore, will be part of "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland," a traveling exhibit that is booked through mid-2016 at various spots around the United States. This farewell event on Sunday will allow fans to have their picture taken with the cyclops at Coney Island before its departure.

It also struck me, though, that this is a very attractive advertisement for the event. In 2014, so it's been built for use on Facebook, Twitter and websites. And then it won't be needed any longer. A couple of decades ago, this event would have been promoted with postcards, flyers and newspaper advertisements. Ephemera, to be sure. The kind of ephemera that had a chance to be saved in drawers and envelopes. Or to be tucked away inside a book. Waiting for someone to discover it years down the road.

But digital advertisements seem even more ephemeral than ephemera. How will one find them in the future? Will there be an archive? Will it be indexed? What if The Cloud disappears? (And, after today's shameful fiasco, that might not be a bad thing.)

It seems to me that a lot of pretty cool stuff on the Internet is at risk of being lost forever. How will people in 2074 learn that there was a Bon Voyage Party for the Spook-A-Rama cyclops and see how that event was advertised?


Of course, I suppose it's pretty easy to move past all of this anguished philosophizing.

I suppose there's a solution.

As my wife might say, "Chris doesn't call it the Internet. He calls it the Printernet."

Boom. Traditional ephemera.

By the way, if you want to read more about Spook-A-Rama and the (mostly) vanished dark rides of Coney Island, I highly recommend that you check out "Lost Dark Rides and Funhouses of Coney Island" on LaffInTheDark.com.

And if you really find yourself enjoying that article, be sure to print it out.

Colorful Postcrossing card and stamps: "Welcome to Ukraine"

Even as their country is being invaded by the Russian Federation, everyday Ukrainians are just trying to live their lives.

That's reflected in this bright and cheery postcard that I received this week from fellow Postcrossing user Olga in Kyiv.1 It features an illustration of young, smiling people in traditional outfits. They're holding hands. She's holding sunflowers.

And, look, Crimea (крим, the peninsula in the lower-right corner) is still shown as being part of Ukraine. (In March, Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine and joined Russia. This remains disputed internationally.)

On the postcard, Olga also included a beautiful collection of stamps from her country.

Olga has only been a Postcrossing user for about six months. Her profile states simply: "Hi everybody! I’m Olga from Kiev (Ukraine) and I’m really happy you gonna send me a postcard =) I love almost every kind of postcard, whatever it looks.. Take it easy!"

When I was showing this postcard to my daughter Sarah and explaining to her the new fighting that has been taking place in Ukraine2, she perceptively, and somewhat sadly, pointed at Olga's Postcrossing profile and said, "Maybe that's why she was last seen 12 days ago." (Postcrossing profiles show you the last time a user logged in to the site.)

So, if you're out there Olga, the Ottos are thinking of you and wishing you the best. We loved your postcard.

Related links

1. Kyiv is the spelling we should all be using (not Kiev). Here's the recent history of that spelling, from Wikipedia:
"Kyiv is the romanized version of the name of the city used in modern Ukrainian. Following independence in 1991, the Ukrainian government introduced the national rules for transliteration of geographic names from Ukrainian into English. According to the rules, the Ukrainian Київ transliterates into Kyiv. This has established the use of the spelling Kyiv in all official documents issued by the governmental authorities since October 1995. The spelling is used by the United Nations, all English-speaking foreign diplomatic missions, several international organizations, Encarta encyclopedia, and by some media in Ukraine. In October 2006, the United States federal government changed its official spelling of the city name to Kyiv, upon the recommendation of the US Board of Geographic Names. The British government has also started using Kyiv. ... Most major English-language news sources like the BBC continue to use Kiev."
2. While the Drudge Report can certainly be known for its sensationalism, this snapshot of headlines on its website today speaks to the ominous times in Ukraine right now:

And I'll leave you with an opinion piece to read about the Ukraine-Russia crisis, from Ian Birrell in The Independent: "Why do we stand by and watch Putin? It is shameful cowardice to pretend this isn't an invasion. We must act."